British business lost a billion pounds to cyber crime last year

 
Lynsey Barber
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Online fraud among businesses is rising (Source: Getty)

The cost of cyber crime to British business came in at £1bn last year but the true price could be even higher, experts have warned.

The number of online fraud crimes jumped nearly a quarter for the year to March, with 37,070 reported to the City of London's national Action Fraud reporting centre, which is the central point for reporting this kind of crime in Britain.

Each police force in the country recorded a £19m loss to businesses in their area, on average.

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Mandate fraud – when a criminal manages to get a victim to change regular payments such as direct debits or standing orders so the money goes to them – experienced the biggest jump of 66 per cent.

Other methods on the rise include duping a victim into transferring money to a senior executive and extortion via ransomware. A separate report last week identified that businesses are stockpiling digital currencies to pay off such ransoms.

Fraud by company employees was also common, highlighting the risk internally as well as externally, according to the figures from Action Fraud and Get Safe Online, the campaign organisation between the National Crime Agency, Ofcom, government agencies and private companies.

Hacking was the most widely reported crime with more than 1,000 cases in the past year, while incidents of cheque, card and online banking fraud fell by 21 per cent.

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“Businesses are a major target for fraudsters and these figures illustrate the significant rise in Action Fraud reports," said City of London Police commander Chris Greany.

“The true figure will be much higher and businesses need to take steps as many of these crimes could be prevented," he warned.

Chief executive of Get Safe Online Tony Neate, said: "To tackle this issue head on, businesses need to review their own skills and knowledge, determine if they need outside help, and then create measures to prevent, detect and respond to potential security threats. It’s all about education, and staff must be aware of this plan and trained where necessary."

The Metropolitan Police covering crime in London received the highest number of online fraud reports of any force in the UK – 5,742 – and also reported the highest costs involved – £240m.

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